Sunday, March 23, 2014

Goin' to Kansas City! Kansas City Here We Come!

Actually, the "Genealogy Girls Gone Wild" weekend in Kansas City was two weeks ago and what a weekend it was! Back in 2010, I met fellow bloggers Diana Ritchie who writes the Random Relatives blog and Jenna Mills who writes the Desperately Seeking Surnames blog. We met as geneabloggers at the Family History Expo in Kansas City that year and became fast friends.

Diana and Jenna at the Midwest Genealogy Center
Independence, Missouri March 2014
A reunion has been in the works for quite a while. I actually got to see Diana in 2012 when she and a friend visited Lincoln in conjunction with John Colletta's appearance at the Greater Omaha Genealogical Society conference. I didn't make it to Omaha that year since I was looking after my Dad, who just had a stroke. But Diana, her friend Nancy and I got together for brunch, went by the home and business owned by Nancy's grandparents and then on to Wyuka Cemetery where Nancy's relatives are buried.

Jenna had all of the advance info on a conference that would be held at the Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence, Missouri on March 8. She assured us that the speaker was one of the genealogy rock stars we would want to see, so we began making plans to attend. Also included in what we referred to as March Madness was Susan Clark of the Nolichucky Roots blog. You might recognize her by her "right eye" profile photo on Facebook. Honoring her desire for relative anonymity, I'm not posting a photo of her here!

We were in touch via Facebook messaging daily, deciding what hotel to stay at, times of our arrival in the Kansas City area, extra curricular activities, and a research day at the Midwest Genealogy Center. Jenna was dubbed the cruise director of the Lido deck since she made arrangements for a Saturday night dinner with the conference's main speaker, Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems, and Kathleen Brandt of A3 Genealogy. (yes, Jenna finally let us know who the speakers would be!).

On the Road Again

I made a leisurely drive to Kansas City, stopping in Nebraska City for lunch at Parker's Smokehouse. I can now say that I've eaten at all three of their locations! I arrived at the hotel late afternoon on Thursday, got unpacked and had snacks and beverages until Diana's arrival. While we all kept in touch with each other via Facebook messaging, I was ostracized by the others by having texting blocked on my wireless plan. Yes, I gave in to peer pressure and added unlimited texting to my plan once I got home!

Diana and I had a nice BBQ dinner out that evening. One HAS to have BBQ when visiting Kansas City.

Library Day

We met up with Jenna on Friday morning for our research day at the Midwest Genealogy Center, which is part of the Mid-Continent Public Library. Jenna had been telling us that we had to get a library card for remote access to the library's vast assortment of databases we could access from home. The card was $20 for six months and has already paid for itself. I haven't counted the number of databases, but I'm sure there are more than 100 available. Being the newspaper archive junkie that I am, I'm going wild in the archives of the Kansas City Star, New York Times and other old papers. There are also databases of history resources, maps, books. I'm a kid in the candy store!

Diana and Susan pretending to do research.
Photo copyright 2014 Jenna Mills, used with permission
We had to refrain Jenna from ripping off the map of Germany!
Jenna knows her way around the library already and knew we would want a tour. So we got a quick tour of the facility. What a library! An entire building dedicated just to genealogy. Okay, I admit it, I don't get out much, so this was the most impressive genealogy collection I've seen. (ACPL and the LDS library in Salt Lake are still on my "to do" list).

I didn't go with a research plan in mind - I just like to get acquainted with a place first. So I looked through some books with Nebraska connections and found a few items. One of my favorite discoveries was locating a photo of the drugstore in Lincoln, Nebraska that was operated by my great grandfather's brother in law. It was late in the day when I discovered several feet of shelf space dedicated to Blair County, Pennsylvania where my Pecht/Peight ancestors lived (for those who have been following the story, that was where my third great grandfather, the axe murderer, lived). That guaranteed another visit to the library later this year.

Susan Clark arrived and checked in with us and spent most of her research day looking at microfilm records. This was my first meeting with her and as with Diana and Jenna, I felt an immediate connection. Well, heck, we've been friends on Facebook for years, so it's not like we were strangers. Susan has one wicked sense of humor, which I like!

As you can see in the photo, we were wise enough to get a private research/conference room since we knew we would be chatting and didn't want to disturb other library users. The library is really user friendly. There are desks and work spaces throughout the facility, shopping carts so you can gather up the books you want to use. There's plenty of electrical outlets to keep your laptop or tablet charged. Microfilm readers and copy machines are set up to save images to USB flash drives. I will definitely come more prepared on my next visit!

Friday evening, the four of us had a nice dinner and talked quite a bit about DNA and genealogy.

Conference Day - Saturday

The "genie tech" conference brought us back to the library on Saturday morning. I hadn't met Lisa Louise Cooke before, so it was a kick for me when she spotted me in the registration line, waved and said "Hi, Susan!" Amazing what online social networking does! It's like we already know each other. Genealogy friends from Lincoln and Omaha were also in the audience and I touched base with them.

Lisa's topics included newspaper research, Google Earth, and using iPads/Tablets for genealogy. I had viewed her webinars on these topics before, but it was really nice to see and hear her in person. Lisa is a fantastic presenter and if you get a chance to attend one of her presentations, do it!

And Kathleen totally rocked it with her presentation on DNA. Wow. This was the first time that DNA was explained in a way that really made sense to me.

Saturday evening, we enjoyed dinner at a Mexican restaurant with Lisa and her daughter; Kathleen and her friend from Jet magazine; and Beth Foulk of Genealogy Decoded. I'd met Beth last year when she spoke at the Nebraska state genealogy conference. Sadly, my hearing isn't the greatest in noisy restaurants, so I only got in on about half of the conversation, but even so, it was a great evening!

On Becoming 'Maxine'

My "real life" friends know how much I b----, I mean complain, about the uncomfortable chairs and seating at conferences. I've left entirely too many conferences early because I could just not tolerate the horrible chairs! Yes, I am turning into the cartoon Maxine! I came prepared for Kansas City and ordered a "butt cushion"! I was surprised, but it really worked! If you are a fellow rear and back pain sufferer at conferences, I definitely recommend this! I will put up with the teasing I take, but I'm not going to any more conferences without my cushion! LOL.

GG Gone Wild!?

Well, we genealogy girls had a fantastic time, even if we seem to be the "early to bed" types! I had a blast and it was a great reunion with my blogger buddies. We all said that Kansas City is a pretty quick drive for all of us and we vowed to do this a few times every year. Next time, I'm definitely going with a research plan in mind.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Copyright or Copy Wrong?

Join me at Walt Branch library next Sunday afternoon for a discussion of how copyright laws impact genealogists. Learn what information or images you may use in your genealogy and how to protect your own intellectual property. Joining me in this discussion will be Jon Roth, who oversees the Edholm and Blomgren collection of photographs.

Sunday, March 2, 2014
2:00 - 4:00 p.m.
Walt Branch Library
6701 S. 14th St
Lincoln, NE

This presentation is hosted by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Life Transitions and Family History

Readers of this blog may have noticed that I've been on a bit of "leave of absence" from blogging for the last couple years. From a high of 318 posts in 2010 to only 12 in 2013.

Some of you know that I had been my father's caregiver since 2004. His passing in November of last year was not unexpected; although I still thought we probably had another couple years together. I've said many times that I would not trade those nine years for anything. I was glad that I was able to help him out during those years. He had a stroke in October 2012, which made my decision to retire in January 2013 an easy one. I knew where I was needed most. No matter what, family comes first.

The last year of his life was difficult for him. Every minute of every day revolved around some aspect of his health care. My life changed a lot, too. While not having to go to a job every day was a relief, I still had a full time job, even if it just meant being on "stand by" for those times when I was needed. I didn't get out much, other than to get groceries or make about three trips to the pharmacy each week. If I managed to get out for lunch with a friend, my time frame of being away from home was about 90 minutes maximum. I would not have done things any differently.

The six weeks following Dad's death were a whirlwind of activity. Looking back, I still don't know how I managed to do all I did in such a short time. As I had been living with him for quite a while, many of my possessions were already packed in boxes and stored in his basement. I still own my own house, but that's another story! I knew I had some leeway in the amount of time it would take to empty his house, but I went to work right away. I rented an apartment for myself. I bought all new furnishings so I could make a fresh start. The only piece of furniture that came with me was my desk chair!

I had made some progress in sorting my family photos and genealogy documents into plastic file boxes. Since time was of the essence, some of the loose piles of paper got crammed into a box just to fill things up. As I was emptying out Dad's desk I found a gold mine of family history information and artifacts that I had never seen before. There were newspaper clippings, funeral cards, photos, a plastic bag of some of his father's personal items.

The day before I was scheduled to move, I discovered yet another box of items of his mother's - again, something I hadn't seen before, with photo albums, legal papers, certificates, you name it. I had no time to look through them - everything just got added to a box. It was bad enough that there was about 50 years of bank statements Dad kept, but he had also hung on to about 10 years of his mother's bank statements. I finally gave up doing the shredding, moved the boxes of items "to be shredded" and will either take them to a commercial shredding company or wait for one of the "community shredding days" we have during the year.

I admit to having been a collector/hoarder of books, CDs and DVDs. As I began going through my personal boxes I knew it was time to start walking the talk and downsize my own possessions. By the time I was done, 30 boxes of my books, music and movies were left behind to add to the estate sale. I've got most of my music available in the Amazon cloud and my favorite movies can be streamed on either Amazon or Netflix. Books? Well, I'm a Kindle user, so that was a no brainer for me.

My plastic file boxes were pretty well labeled. So much so that one of the moving guys said to me, "So, you do genealogy?" I wish I'd had more time to recruit him to join our local society!

I delayed Dad's memorial service/celebration of life for five weeks - until after I had moved out of his house, and just a few days prior to the estate sale. I'm glad I did because it gave me the time I needed to write my memorial tribute/eulogy, which I posted on this blog last month. I wrote it in one sitting, with just some minor edits a few days later. It's not something I could have written in only a few days after his death. And I wanted his service to be as perfect as I could make it.

The beginning of my family heritage center
I've been in my new place about six weeks now. A project that is evolving as I do an initial sort of those family history file boxes is the creation of a family heritage center in the entertainment center I bought. No 50" TV for me. I'm filling it with family artifacts. Dad was the last of my immediate family. So it's just me now. But I have this need to keep my family as an integral part of my life. I guess you could call it my mini-museum. There's not enough room for all of the photographs I've scanned, so I have a digital photo frame as part of my display. Maybe it's a bit self-indulgent, but it's my home and it's my way of keeping my family in my life.

I have a table top curio cabinet on order so I can display some of the items that belonged to my parents, grandparents and great grandparents. I'll post a photo once I have it in place.

My parents as teenagers, doing what they loved the most;
Dad playing baseball and Mom in her riding outfit - horses were her life.

It's been quite a transition. My life is no longer divided up in two hour blocks of time. I can spend time with friends, enjoy long lunches. I'm already planning my trips to state, regional and national conferences throughout 2014.

Because I've moved on does not mean that I love my Dad any less. He had a good, fulfilling life for a long time. Now, a year after my official retirement, I actually begin my retirement life - a life that will be focused on preserving and documenting my family history.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

It's For My Dad - Kenneth L Petersen

Over the course of my lifetime, I've known him as Daddy, Dad, Ken, and then back to Daddy again.

There were times when I felt responsible for him losing his job as a salesman for the Lifesavers candy company. He was on the road in South Dakota that hot summer morning when he got the word that I had entered the world and he rushed home to meet me. He and Mom had a brand new home they were building, a brand new baby and no job. I'm sure those three months of unemployment between my birth and the beginning of his long career at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company were difficult for my parents. But as they did throughout their marriage and in raising me, they made things work.

I learned so many things from My Dad. My Daddy taught me how to ride a bicycle. I was much too stubborn to accept a large sized tricycle and I insisted that he instead get the two-wheeler I spotted on the top shelf at the store. "Daddy! Just put it in the trunk and take it home!" I insisted, refusing to even try it out in the store. Even then, I knew how to get what I wanted.

There were plenty of skinned knees and bruises over the years. It was only a few short years ago that Dad decided he wanted to get a bike of his own once again. He was pretty excited because he wanted to get more exercise. He was puttering about with it and a few minutes later he came in the house saying, "I need your help!" Assuming he wanted me to help with something on the bike, I went to meet him. He was nothing but blood and scrapes from one end to the other. He'd made it about 20 feet down the driveway and into the yard before he fell off. It was difficult for him to realize that he no longer had the balancing skills necessary to ride a bicycle. So, as he had done for me so many times as a child, I helped clean up the blood and applied bandages to the scrapes. The bike and accessories were returned to the store the next day.

My Daddy taught me how to play softball when I was in grade school. I thought it was unfair that because I was a girl I couldn't pursue my dream of playing for a Major League Baseball team. Dad had lost his dream of doing that as well. In high school, he had tried out for the St. Louis Cardinals. But it was war time and serving his country was more important to him than playing baseball.

In the 1950s, he resurrected and coached the American Legion baseball team in Greenwood, Nebraska for several years and our family never missed a game. At home, the rose trellis made of chicken wire was the backstop as he taught me how to hit, catch, field grounders, bunt and switch hit. He even taught me a few of the tricks that he learned from Goose Tatum, a noted baseball player and star of the Harlem Globetrotters who was stationed in Lincoln in the 1940s. While I absolutely knew that I could do it, I refrained from catching a pop fly behind my back during a summer league game. Dad and I used to practice that move in our back yard. I'd laugh to myself when he would tell me, "You're throwing like a girl!"

When I was a young teenager, my Dad was my coach for summer league softball. Unlike some of the parent-coaches today, he never hesitated to bench me if my performance was off. My parents would never 'let' me win at any board game or card games. Both my parents taught by example, rather than by spoken rules. And they wanted me to learn that if I was going to be a success in life, I would have to work for it.

During my teen years, it was Dad's routine to do his banking and errands on Saturday mornings. On one of those Saturday mornings, he was driving home from Havelock and listening to the car radio. That was when he discovered that the meeting of the Lincoln Beatles Fan Club was going to be at his house that very afternoon! In my enthusiasm for publicizing the meeting, I'd forgotten to mention it to my parents! But they tolerated all of the years of Beatlemania, the posters on my bedroom walls, the sounds of rock and roll blaring from my room and the never ending busy signal on our telephone. I even have a photo of Dad wearing a mop-top wig, wearing a hippie outfit and flashing the two-fingered peace sign. He was always a good sport.

One night during the summer just before I entered journalism school at the University, Dad woke me up to tell me that a special guest was in our family recreation room. It was Tom Henry, the anchorman from KMTV in Omaha. My folks had run into him and his date at a local tavern. His date was an old high school friend of my Mom's, so after the tavern closed, the party continued at our house. There I sat, in my pajamas and robe, listening to stories about the real world of journalism and Tom Henry telling me how important it was that I pursue my education and get my college degree. To this day, I have no doubt that Mom and Dad planted that bit of advice for him to give to me.

My Daddy taught me how to fish, how to drive, how to balance a checkbook, how to pitch a tent, and later in life, how to golf. The time we spent together on the golf course was great fun. I even beat him a time or two. One year when I visited him and Glynda in Florida, there was a baby alligator sunning himself on the green of the fifth hole. We decided to just take par for that hole and moved on to the next one.

My Daddy and I often had long talks about his youth, life philosophy and things in general. I would enjoy nothing more than listening to my parents talk about their experiences during The Depression and how the war changed everyone's life. My grandparents on both sides had it rough during The Depression. As with many American families, what kept them going was hard work and the love of family. This ethic was passed down through the generations.

There was never any doubt in my mind that I would go to college. The gift of my college education was probably the best I ever received from my parents. They worked hard to save for my tuition, and taught me to save as well. When I graduated from high school, they said, "You can have a new car or go to college. It's your choice." I thought, "What would I want a car for? I'm going to college!"

After his bout with cancer at age 55, and a projected life expectancy of five years at that time, Dad chose to retire the following year at the age of 56. There's not too many people who can say they were retired for nearly as many years as they worked.

Over the last 15 years or so, Dad began having health problems, beginning with the diagnosis of diabetes. All of the other health issues that go along with that disease seemed to plague him. If anyone asked him what medications he took, he replied, "everything in the store!" That wasn't too far from the truth. He had so many ailments to deal with, that he often said his body was a medical experiment.

After the death of my stepmother nine years ago, I brought an overnight bag to Dad's house with enough clothes and personal items to get through the funeral. I honestly believed that after his release from the nursing home back then that he would be back on his feet in no time. It only took a few days for me to realize that he was going to need help, and I became his caregiver. This was quite ironic because when Dad was in his 50s, he informed me that he had taken out long term care insurance because I probably wasn't going to be around to take care of him in his old age. I guess I showed him!

While sometimes challenging, I would not trade the last nine years with my Dad for anything. He went through the loss of a toe to diabetes. Although when Dad was trying to get a little more sympathy from people, he would say that he "had part of my foot amputated." He did well for a long time and we had many dinners out, took long drives around Lincoln and the surrounding areas. He was astonished by the changes in downtown Lincoln and the University campus since his youth. He'd tell stories about how he used to get into the knot hole section of Memorial Stadium when he was a kid.

Dad was married to my Mom, Patricia Kelly, for 28 years and to Glynda Thomas for 28 years. While different types of relationships, both were good. There was just the three of us when I was growing up. We always said we were the Three Musketeers because we always stuck together. I was taught to be responsible for myself because there wasn't going to be anyone else to take care of me. I would have to work hard to get through life. The work ethic and responsibility is something I got from both of my parents.

Looking through photographs recently, I saw pictures from all of the Nebraska football games Dad attended, in and out of town. He and Glynda never missed a bowl game for years. The photos showed a younger and healthier Ken, living life to the fullest with travels to Alaska, Hawaii, Maine and Florida, Georgia to California, and all points in between. Glynda tried to talk Dad into going on a cruise several times. He would respond that he'd already been on a world cruise that had taken him through the Panama Canal, the Philippines, the South Pacific and New Zealand, all courtesy of the U. S. Navy. As I looked at these wonderful photos of Dad smiling, laughing and acting up, I said aloud, "Daddy, you had a really good life."

After Dad had a stroke in 2012, he lost much of his ability to communicate clearly. He was still as sharp as a tack and spent hours reading the newspaper, books and magazines. When I'd get home from work, he'd have something new to tell me about Brittney Spears, Michael Jackson or the Black Eyed Peas. I swear, he must have spent the afternoon rehearsing those stories so he could tell it with a straight face since he clearly had no idea who these people were!

After his stroke, I lost the key that would unlock all of those stories I loved listening to - about growing up on North 23rd Street, all of his high school girlfriends and the great plays he made during Lincoln High baseball and football games. The memories were still in his head; he just couldn't always find the right words to say what he wanted. We did a lot of pantomime, pointing and guessing to communicate. Too often, he would just give up trying to find the words. But he always managed to tell me every morning, "I love my little Susie. I'm so glad that you are here with me."

I am fortunate to have been with both of my parents when they passed over. As my Daddy left me, I knew that he was finally free from the constant pain and struggles he'd had for many years. By that afternoon, I have no doubt that he had reunited with the remainder of his foursome for a round of golf on the other side.

My Daddy may be gone from the physical world, but he will live in my heart forever.

Monday, June 24, 2013